Paul Mason (2015) Postcapitalism: A Guide To Our Future.

Paul Mason is an optimist. I’m a pessimist.  He outlines the problems mankind faces in the future and suggests as a utopian solution of free money and us all working together in a non-working world. I tend more towards the four horseman of the apocalypse scenario.

Mason suggests there are a number of negative feedback loops that will work together to make the world a much poorer place for 99% of humanity, but if we reverse engineer this process we can all become richer and make a fairer and more prosperous world for all. ‘Neoliberalism is Broken’ is the title of his first chapter. We all know how this works. We’ve being doing it for the last thirty years and the process has accelerated since the financial meltdown of 2008. Work longer hours for less pay, or no pay. Sing hallelujah, and thanks boss, as money flows from the poor to the rich at an increasing rate.  Thomas Piketty, Capital, did the maths. Algorithms rule the world.  But Mason sees a chink of light in the information age. Technology that puts at least fifty percent of the workforce out of work, (timescale by 2050, or at cinema near you soon) will, as work itself become redundant, give us more leisure time. When the distinction between work and leisure becomes blurred creativity will flourish. Examples, oh dear, ‘people will blog, make movies, self-publish books’. Shit. I’m already doing all these things. I must be living in the future. It’s Martin Ford’s The Rise of the Robots, but with a happy ending. The robots won’t gain an awareness of themselves as a singular being, in the singularity, and mankind as being a species that has reduced the planet to a giant hamburger, and instead of keeping mankind as a pet, they’ll not do the logical thing and mine us for the energy in our hair and skin and meat and reduce the world to something like a boxset of hell played on an endless loop, but instead of that, our android friends will free us from work.

The merit in that argument is it is logical. William Shakespeare’s Brave New World  before Brave New World has Ariel working for the man, Prospero, in  The Tempest.  All utopias are a bit like that. Prospero might have stolen an island home, but it was from an evil witch, and give him his due, he did give gainful employment to the witch’s son, and became master of the monster, Caliban, who he used as another source of free labour. Prospero was free to do what he willed, as we will be in a prosperous new age based on exciting new technologies. Fritz Laing, Metropolis. As above, so below. Aldous Huxley and George Orwell both envisaged a time when work would be something that would be optional – for the elite. As it always has been, but Mason argues that the problems facing us are global problems and unless we face them together they will defeat us and the capitalist system will fall apart.

Global warming is an example of this. Mason doesn’t think the market can work well enough to allocate resource so everyone can meet their energy needs and keep enough fossil fuels out of the air and keep the temperature of the earth below an increase of around two-degree centigrade level. After that runaway global warning will take place. Being born in a particular location will be the equivalent of a life in poverty and death with millions of refugees on the move. I called this melodramatically, The Third World War, and suggested it’s already begun. I think it’s a war already lost. Human casualties, I’d guess, somewhere in the range of the Black Death, one in four. I can be bland about it because I’ll be dead by the time this is fully realised. But if you’ve children of grandchildren, be very afraid. Mason suggests that we leave all fossil fuels in the ground, turn to solar, wind, and sea, as Germany has done, with up to 50% of its needs being met in this way. So it is possible, but is it probable?

China and India playing catch up and building or having recently built hundreds of coal-fired stations.  But as Mason states ‘Between 2003 and 2010, climate change lobby groups received $558 million in the US. Exxon Mobil and the ultra-conservative Koch industries were major donors…’ What’s in it for them? Simple. Leave fossil fuels in the ground, or as Mason suggests in his chapter ‘Project Zero’ and Exxon Mobil will be worth zero on the stock market of any market. Far simpler to go out and buy a politician, or president.

One of interrelated problems Mason identified was workers in the Western world are getting older. Gee whiz, you may be saying, my hips killing me, I sure know about that. ‘Futureproofing’ on Radio 4 that around 50% of children born today will live until they’re 104. Great news for them. Around 4% of those born at the start of the last century lived long enough to collect their pension. So work hard and don’t collect your pension was the order of the day. Think about this. One in two hospital beds are filled by our fossil fools. Piketty suggests that rich countries growth will fall to around 1% to zero or negative growth. That’s where we are now. More must be done with less. That’s where we are now. Piketty also shows that the equation that you put into the system early and take it out in your later years, in health deficits, no longer works, or can be taken seriously. Mason shows that six of eight nations with populations under 30 are in Africa. Throw in India and US and the equation that one worker will be supporting one pensioner (around four workers fill those positions now) and you’ll be able to determine it doesn’t add up. Mason also shows that all that money invested in government bonds and shares and other financial assets are, in the longer term, worthless as the International Monetary Fund recognises. The bearer will not pay on demand.  When it unravels, as it will, then the provider of last resort is the government.

Here’s another of my favourites. The problem of supply is one of demand. Rosa Luxemburg, and all that. As Apple who make those nice phones and tablets and were the richest company in the world find to their cost, unless poor people have money in their pockets they can’t afford to buy those shiny new toys. One in eight workers in the US have at one time worked for McDonalds. Tens of millions wait for food stamps and flood into Walmart, who tell their staff to claim for food stamps. In our country we’re looking at the same solution: the race to the bottom. The solution, increased liquidity, give more money to the rich in the hope that it trickles –eventually- down to the poor, doesn’t work. It’s never worked, but is  neoliberal ideology in action.

Mason takes a hint from that well-known libertine, Friedrich Hayek, and suggests that citizens should be issued with an income to do with it what they liked by the government. Imagine if universal credit really was universal credit and how work would become an optional choice. But it’s another of Hayek’s truisms Mason challenges. Only the market can allocate resources. Computing power, argues Mason, can now do that just as effectively, or more effectively than any free market. Facebook and Google, for example, can anticipate our every need before we can even voice it. Their algorithms are getting better. What we think of choice is just a bit of camouflage as the servant serves us more of the same, but in a different colour. But imagine Mason suggests harnessing this power. Imagine the government building more houses. Imagine the government taking control of the money supply and instead of trying to sell banks we already own, lending money to rich people, lending it to fund social projects. Imagine the government running the energy industry for our benefit. I know, I know, it’s a bit much to take. Especially, the bit about taking money from the 1% who are rolling in it. There’s a loss of liberty there. Liberalism. Liberty. More equality.  Mason thinks that the threats that we face will allied with the technologies that we have developed will make it brave new world with everyone sharing in the fruits of non-labour. I’m more cynical. We’re at the Wright brother stages with the first aircraft. New technologies will enrich us, but not us all. The world is a more stratified place and will become even more stratified and uneven. Four horsemen on the horizon. Not even that far. I think I can hear the thunder of hoofs. But I hope Mason is right and I’m wrong, as I usually am.

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Hillsborough

I heard on the radio this afternoon that by a majority verdict of seven to two the jury at the inquest of the Hillsborough disaster, where 92 people died, many of them teenage boys, found that they were unlawfully killed. I don’t really know what that means, but hearing those at the inquest singing the Liverpool anthem ‘Walk On’ made me feel tearful. A vindication for those families that campaigned and sought justice and truth. Let us not forget the media smear campaigns, Murdoch’s  Sun, in particular, reaching even by their standards, an all-time low.  And a police force used to breaking the law and breaking heads, experience gained during the miners’ strike March 1984 – March 1985. And Thatcherism, let us not forget the ideology that made the conflation of working class and  football supporter, criminal. The truth is out and walking about and I’m delighted. Twenty-six years of lies –unravelled. ‘Walk On’.

Louis Theroux: Drinking to Oblivion, BBC 2, 9pm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b07952b1/louis-theroux-drinking-to-oblivion

Yesterday started much the same as always. I read the papers, Sunday Mail and The Observer. It was a bit of a surprise that The Observer had plagiarised two of my blogs. One was the Kevin Mc Kenna article about why Celtic are so shite but we love them anyway; the other about inequality, CEO salaries and executive pay. I don’t blame The Observer, after all I sometimes use their pages for source material and I have written over 200 blogs. Blog writing is a bit like chaining yourself to a fence, because somebody else is doing it. Nobody cares.  It might just be coincidence. But the only answer I could see was to drink myself to oblivion.

I’ve a bit of previous in this. Any time Celtic is playing, you can be sure I’m out at the pub drinking myself to oblivion. Really, if you’ve watched them this season you’d understand why. Ross County held us to a draw. Or we held them to a draw, I wasn’t sure which. I spend a lot of time looking at a screen and making up lies, when I’m out drinking myself to oblivion I try to tell even more lies. I tried to start a rumour that Celtic are signing Harry Kane as the next Celtic manager – because he’s one of our own. But like my blog writing nobody seemed that interested.

After drinking myself to oblivion I went up the road to fall asleep watching Match of the Day. Needless to say I’d Swansea to beat Leicester on my coupon, but I’d also Celtic to win and even the archenemies Rangers to win. This drinking yourself to oblivion does something to your brain cells.

I tried to stay away to watch Louis Theroux. Louis always looks the same, slightly surprised at anything that happens to those participating in his shows, which is no surprise as they tend to be familiar faces, oddballs or nutters. And Louis talking like at typewriter comments on what we can see on the screen. It’s a great gig having a production company that sells documentaries to the BBC. It’s the kind of thing I’d like to do when I’m not drinking myself to oblivion.

Louis visits King’s College Hospital in London which has a specialist liver unit. Most of the patients, not surprisingly, are people with problems with alcohol. There was nothing here that I hadn’t seen before in my local. If Louis had filmed me I’d have told him about the rumour Celtic were signing Harry Kane as player manager. Louis could have worn his usual bemused expression and asked some asinine question about my drinking. I’d have told him straight. Harry Kane, Celtic, honest.

What was dishonest about Louis’s whole show was the doctors and nurses playing doctors and nurses to the camera. Try turning up drunk at Accident and Emergency. Doctors spit on you. Nurses do everything but tell you to fuck off. They don’t rush outside and run down the street entreating you to come back for treatment and promising you a bed. This is fantasy land. This is mods and rockers waiting for the film crews and the cameras before they start scrapping. Come back in the morning when you sober up Louis. Your bemused smile is wearing a hole in my head.

idiocy on a grand scale

We all know how this works. BP is on the slide. Share price dropping like a cascade of dominos.  It’s not a good time to be in fossil fuels. China no longer buying; America fracking and the Middle Eastern countries pumping out more oil than you can shake a Sheik at. Even Saudi Arabia is feeling the pinch and trying to sell shares in its monopoly. The best thing a company that BP can do is sack worker [tick] and lower existing workers’ pay [tick] and water down any obligations that the company may have towards workers’ welfare such as pensions and sick pay [tick]. And if that doesn’t work first time, keep doing it until you can see the whites of the workers’ eyes. Plead poverty. Ask for a government bailout on that infrastructure you’ve already paid for and get a tax rebate to keep you competitive. Threaten even more job losses [tick].  Then appoint a new chief executive Bob Dudley.

What makes Bob that is a Dudley unusual is  the established formula of agreeing to everything the new chief executive demands, such as a £14 million starting salary was voted down. Wow. That’s Bolshevism for you. Some of the other executives in the top FTSE 100 companies average a  salary of around £5 million a year. According to the High Pay Centre, they’ve got to make do with Exec poverty at around 183 times the earnings of the equally average UK worker. Average earnings in the UK being around £26 500 in 2015, but of course most folk I know don’t make average earnings, they make far less than that. But let’s just simply, picture your own average executive and pin his image to an internal dartboard [and it will be a he]. He makes 200 times the average worker. And Bob, this is a Dudley, makes almost three times as much as them.

What can super Bob do? Can he like Superman turn the earth back on its axis, regularly save the world, turn back time and save Lois Lane from a crumbling dam that has killed her and bring her back to life with a kiss? Temporarily blip. Like the stock market, she will recover.

I’m sure those angry shareholders were asking the question most workers face. Would Bob work for a measly £13 999 999? And if he would why not a measly £13 999 998?  £13 999 997?  You can see where it’s going. A downward pressure on Bob’s pay packet.

Perhaps shareholder could get Bob, who is a Dudley, to sign a workers’ agreement, or more a lame-duck promise, not to commit suicide, as all new global workers, such as those making smartphones and tablets for Apple’s subsidiary company Foxconn in China were forced to do, in 2010.

Ignore signs such as those held up to information technology workers on Google buses there’s 10 million Dudley’s more like you in India. One of the picketer’s placards being held by Thomas Piketty.

All wages are relative and Bob who is a Dudley is I’m sure worth more than the average worker.  But how much more? Let’s throw up some ideas. Offhand, how about 100 000 times more? The ratio of how many serfs the nobility owned in War and Peace. By the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, around 1989, the modern aristocracy of the Communist politburo has two houses and earned around six times as much as the average worker. Let’s just say it’s a changed world from the people that owned the land that also owned the people on the land, to modern commerce, but the principle is the same. Putin knows it. I’m the one holding the big stick. Like it or lump it. I’m sure Bob that’s not a Dudley knows it too.

Jackie Kay (1998) Trumpet.

I knew the secret of this book before I read it. Joss Moody, jazz trumpeter, extraordinaire is really a woman. So what, I thought. I also thought it would be set in some seedy jazz country called New York. But it’s not, it’s set in London, Glasgow and  Torr and spans about sixty years from the early fifties. And I’d guess, from reading Red Dust Road, it’s the kind of quiet place and space that Jackie Kay’s parents John and Ellen, who live in Townhead, Glasgow, piled in a car and took her and her brother on holiday. Both were black kids adopted by a white working- class couple whose religion was communism. I really liked John and Ellen Kay and was glad to read an update on how they were keeping in an article Jackie wrote for The Observer. Jackie makes no secret of being a lesbian.  Her Nigerian birth father took a prurient interest in the mechanics of sex between women when Jackie met him in the Hilton Hotel in Abuja. For the record, there’s not much sex in Trumpet, but there is the glitter of loving and the question of whether we can really know somebody.

The location of the book is largely a Scotland I’m familiar with, but the impetus for the book Jackie Kay tells the reader in the Afterword is Billy Tipton, a musician that had been married three times and only after his death was he discovered to be a she. In Trumpet this is shown, with the undertaker and the doctor who signed the death certificate also making this strange discovery, that the he is a she. Clothes make the man, but death leaves everyone naked and an open book. None of his wives had known Billy Tipton was a woman, had me reaching for the aye-right-pal-you’re-pulling-my-leg pills, but in Trumpet Joss Moody’s wife and widow, Millie  does know, but doesn’t care. Millie was ‘a fearless girl,’ that came to Torr and ‘climbed rocks, ran down the hills and dug graves for my brothers till the tide came in’. I imagine this is the way it was for Jackie Kay, the reader, looking for the writer in the fictional text.   Millie loves the man/woman the person that blows her trumpet, regardless of gender. The Joss Moody she fell in love with is the woman she has sex with three times a week and often on a Sunday. The engine of the story is Coleman, Joss and Millie’s adopted son’s outrage at his father’s deception. Like Jackie and her brother Coleman is adopted and he is black like their seafaring father. But one of Billy Tipton’s adopted sons is quoted as saying: ‘He will always be Daddy to me’. That encapsulates a world.

The structure of the book, the reader is told in the afterword, is like jazz. I’ll take the author’s word for that. ‘Riffs and solos and some characters would appear and let rip and then disappear.’

A chapter, for example, titled, ‘People: The Old School Friend’ features May Hart. May has a dream about an old school friend Josephine Moore that she went to school with in Greenock. She had a school photograph of her. Josephine was the only coloured one in the class. ‘A very pretty girl. Beautiful teeth. Lovely smile.’ For some clothes make the man, for May it’s teeth that make the man or woman. Journalist,Sophie Stones ‘ has horrible teeth…too large for her mouth and one slightly discoloured’ and May has come to realise her husband was jealous of her teeth, made her have a bottom set of falsers fitted and she hated him for that. May is not going to tell Sophie Stone that she had a schoolgirl crush on Josephine and that they had kissed. Nor is she willing to help her with her expose of the man that was really a woman, because someone with teeth like Sophie can’t be trusted.

Coleman, of course, doesn’t know who to trust. Sophie Stone is offering him the opportunity to tell his side of the story and he’ll make some money from it. His anger drives him to agree, but love, there’s a thing.

A widow’s a widow in anyone’s language. I found that out today when I was talking about cutting down a fir tree but when I asked why her husband didn’t do it. And I’d one of those ‘did you not hear’ moments.  Tam Gallacher dead, who was usually puttering about the front garden and whom I usually spent a few minutes talking mainly about books (he liked Aldous Huxley). Small world. Trumpet is told from different points of view, call it jazz if you like. It’s Jackie Kay’s first novel. It won an award and is marketed as ‘classic’. A classic for me is something that makes me a better person and finds a space in my heart. This books is OK, but it doesn’t do that. It’s the kind of book I’d read on a plane in one gulp and leave the paperback in the seat.

~A manager needs to carry some luck.

Ronny Delia will be the loneliest man in Scotland this morning. In case you didn’t notice Rangers are back. They beat Celtic in a Scottish Cup semi-final, in a penalty shoot-out, after drawing 2-2, after extra time. Triumphalism from the Huns, and rightly so. Over the piece they had more possession of the ball and were the better team. That tells you everything you need to know about Celtic. Out fought and out manoeuvred by a team made up of patchwork professionals. Managers need to carry a bit of luck. That’s the unwritten rule. Poor Ronny’s teams follow his lead, when things can go wrong they will go wrong. The all-important first goal in the Old Firm game is crucial. Celtic and Scotland captain Scott Brown knocks the ball from the edge of the box into the path of Kenny Miller. That’s Kenny Miller of Rangers and not of Celtic, in case you were asking. Even Kenny Miller couldn’t miss from six yards and didn’t. That wasn’t unexpected. Celtic’s defence frailties are known all over Europe. Teams we’ve never heard of snigger when they draw Celtic out of the hat. Delia was brave here. He took off Boyata, who’d been booked and found wanting, as he usually is, and put on  Erik Sviatchenko. Sviatchenko got us back into the game with a headed goal from a corner, but only after  Patrick Roberts missing an open goal. In anyone’s language that’s called a Van Vossen.

Managers need to carry a bit of luck, but players have to occasionally help out. We know Celtic’s defence is rotten, but whisper it, so are Rangers’. Pat had 3-1 to win on his coupon. Andy Rat had 4-1 and 5-1 on his. And I did a bit of spread betting. Celtic to win 5-1 and Rangers to be winning at half-time and Celtic at full time. We tried to stick another couple of quid on Celtic to win the game over the ninety minutes at what we thought were generous odds of 4/1, but Andy Rat couldn’t get through on his phone to the bookies because of Rangers’ fans laughing.

Rangers scored the second, a top corner strike, that’s worthy to win any game. Tom Rogic comes on for an out of touch Stefan Johansen, so out of touch he hardly touched the ball, but that’s an ongoing thing. He hasn’t played well for months. Why he keeps getting selected, you’d need to ask the manager. Biton has also been out of touch as has Brown. That’s the whole engine room of the team. Shite. It’s not hard to see if you can’t defend and can’t create, you’ll lose games. Tom Rogic scores. He’s got that knack. He rolls player and is a goal threat, as is the best central midfielder in Scotland Kris Commons. That’s the manager’s prerogative, to pick his team. Ronnie can talk about pressing and energy, but that’s camouflage for ineptitude. Plan B is the same as Plan A.

Kieran Tierney gets pass marks. The only Celtic player worthy of his wages. But you don’t ask a boy to do a man’s job and take a penalty. Leave that to the ballooners and bottlers.

Mangers need to carry a bit of luck. Even at penalties it could go either way. But it was only going to go one way. Ronnie is right up there with John Barnes. A doomed experiment.

Rangers deserved their victory. But the thing about triumphalism is can bite you on the arse. Hibs are underwhelming favourites in the Scottish Cup Final. Much as Rangers were against Celtic. And this is the first time I’ve watched Rangers since last years Old Firm game. They’ve got better. We’ve got much worse. But Rangers can’t defend. They’ll lose masses of points next year being hit on the counter by teams that come and sit in at Ibrox. Celtic will get better, because, really, they can’t get any worse. They’ve got some average players that can be polished up to being better than at present. That’s the job of the next manager. It’s a painful one, but a new start. Let’s wait and see.

Celtic v Rangers, Scottish Cup, semi-final (tomorrow)

celtic v rangers.jpg

Hard to believe but Walter Smith has been talking sense. The real fear for Rangers should be ten-in-a-row. That’s five in the bag. Five to go. Obviously, Walter would play Goram in goal and Laudrup up front and use the other nine players as defenders. That worked for him, time after time. But Mark Warburton favours a more expansive game. Well, at least I hope he does. Because Walter Smith’s game plan is perfect for derailing the current Celtic crop. Look at Molde, for inspiration, or any of the so called European lightweights. Look to Ross County. Look at the recent Dundee performance, sit in and Celtic and Boyata, in particular, will give you the ball. You don’t have to be anything great and Rangers aren’t. Man for man none of the Rangers players could get near the Celtic first team. I doubt if any of them would make the Celtic reserve team. Then again, I’m biased, when Goram and Laudrup ripped up Celtic I was loath to admit they’d be good enough to wear the hoops and grudgingly allocated them a place on the mythical Celtic bench where we let players rot.

Man for man Celtic are better, but Rangers can win – if they score first. If Celtic score first I expect them to win by four or five. Score prediction: Celtic 5 – Rangers 1.

Let’s be honest, neither team can defend, so even Rangers will hit a consolation goal.

Erik Sviatchenko faces a fitness test. I guess he’ll be passed fit, but I don’t really want him to play. He’s not the best in the air and he’s slower than Boyata, who will play. I hope we go with Mulgrew, who’s slower than everybody, including me, but he’s been OK in recent weeks (well, Scott McDonald did give him a bit of a roasting; one goal and one disallowed) but that apart, Mulgrew and Boyata in the central defence positions. They should be able to take care of Ranger’s forwards. What we don’t want is Boyata passing the ball from the back. That brings back the nightmarish Ambrose territory.

Craig Gordon has been great in recent weeks. Long may it continue. Cross balls is his downfall, but even here, he’s not been too bad. Bit of a worry on the big Hampden pitch that he thinks he’s a sweeper and rushes out of the goal. Fingers crossed he catches crosses and sees sense.

Kieran Tierney is the future of Celtic. Outstanding, even if he did try and usher a ball out of play last week and lost Celtic a goal. But he set up two and he can defend.

Mikael Lustig. Ho-hum. More dangerous in the opposition box where he’s more likely to score from headers. In our own box has been found wanting of late. Tall and rangy, usually not a bad user of the ball, on the big Hampden pitch that should be an asset.

Patrick Roberts will play in front of him. That means more work for Lustig, but Roberts is a player that likes to take the ball forward. He likes to go past players and he likes to shoot. He’s in the team on merit. He’s our great hope of opening up the Ranger’s defence.

On the other wing, Colin Kasim-Richards got a surprise start last week. Big and strong, he didn’t lose a ball in the air and had a good game. Missed a sitter and liable to get sent off. That’s the downside, but he showed that defensively he’s strong in the air and can play on the wing. I’d play him in front of Gary Mackay Steven. Stuart Armstrong is another option, but he’s been so far out of the frame I’ve got more chance of playing, but you never know. Deila likes to tinker and it’s usually in the wide positions. He might even play Kris Commons.

Scott Brown captain and central midfielder. Ho-hum.

Nir Bitton, ho-hum.

Stefan Johansen will play the more advanced role. That’s the theory. Tom Rogic is miles better, but he’ll be kept in reserve. Kris Commons is the best in Scotland but can’t get a sniff. To be fair, Johnasen hasn’t been as absolutely shite as he was earlier in the season. So here’s hoping he proves me and the Celtic supporters wrong.

Leigh Griffiths, on fire and scored 37 goals this season. That’s the propaganda. Last week against Motherwell he was the worst man on the park wearing the hoops. Before that he hadn’t scored in four games and contributed little of note (I’m including his Scotland cap). His penalty miss was a shocker. And he was equally culpable before that and should have hit three or four goals before half time against Motherwell. But he’s a bit like the Celtic team, if he turns up, if they turn up, comfortable win. Unless, of course, I spot Walter Smith sitting in the dugout I don’t think there should be too much to worry the Bhoys.